A mutual love of motorcycles has bonded two women together. One, a young legal guardian who enjoys riding for charity in her free time, and the other, an 86-year-old who has a spunky side. Dementia isn’t taking that from her.
“My dad, he had all these motorcycles. Funny how certain things stick in your mind, but I can’t remember a lot of things,” says Nora to her Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) guardian, Octavia Maynard.
After the plan got the green light and everyone was invested in Nora’s motorcycle adventure, the word kept getting passed around.“She has some of the Alzheimer’s symptoms which is why she can’t remember everything, but we try to help her out with that. Medically, she’s currently with hospice,” says Maynard.
LMM provides legal guardians like Maynard to serve as concerned, caring advocates and surrogate decision-makers for adults who cannot care for themselves. “I appreciate all the help,” says Nora. “When you don’t have relatives, it’s not real easy.”
In addition to looking after the emotional, social, financial, and physical well-being of these vulnerable adults, LMM guardians are known for their commitment and often go above and beyond to make their wards feel seen and heard. Maynard has a knack for sensing when one of her wards needs an adventure.
“During my visits, Nora and I talk about the bike runs I go on for charity and she kept mentioning how she loved riding, and I made a joke about taking her on a poker run with the Eagle Riders,” says Maynard. “She told me she wished she could because that would be something to remember, and from there I took off with the idea and made it happen!”
Maynard wasted no time contacting everyone she needed to in hopes of receiving permission for the ride. Nora is completely wheelchair dependent, and a lot of coordination would be needed. “So, I called all my friends, and the nursing home, and my bosses, and the doctors and the director of nursing and everybody else and asked if it was okay,” she says.
Nora transformed during that ride. She was young in mind and body again.After the plan got the green light and everyone was invested in Nora’s motorcycle adventure, the word kept getting passed around. “All my friends from four different riding groups, a local community of riders, came together and helped us find a sidecar driver for her,” says Maynard. Two Harley Davidson dealerships donated gear for Nora to wear, and Maynard got her the perfect helmet.
Nora couldn’t believe it when Maynard asked her to ride. “When I found out? I was real thrilled and excited and happy,” she said. “I like that sound, the Harley sounds, you can’t beat it!”
Before the ride, the nurses carefully transferred Nora from her wheelchair to the side car, tucking her in for the 15-minute ride. As staff got Nora comfortable and safe, 30 or so riders who had never met Nora rallied around her for her last ride. “Everyone was excited and emotional,” recalls Maynard, “I was anxious and excited for her.”
Nora transformed during that ride. She was young in mind and body again. “You’re just out there in the wind and I just enjoy motorcycle rides very, very much,” she later said.
Maynard says Nora chatted with her rider and waved. “I rode in front of her, and she was just like one of the group—comfortable and happy throughout,” she recalls. “After the ride she described it with the most adjectives I’ve ever heard strung together including—'marvelous,’ ‘stupendous,’ ‘amazing,’ and ‘best day ever.’ After the ride, many of my riders were brought to tears, everyone loved her.”
Nora couldn’t believe it when Octavia asked her to ride.“I appreciate what you did for me so very, very much,” shared Nora. “Thank you so much and I really enjoyed everything,”
Has Nora’s life changed since meeting Maynard? “It has changed a whole lot and it has changed for the better,” Nora says.
Maynard says she feels the same about Nora and others in her care. “Our job is unique, and every situation requires a unique approach,” she says. “I love more challenging situations and being able to think outside the box and make a difference to all of my wards. They’re like my really big family.”
Nora’s Last Ride holds a special spot in Maynard’s heart. She looks at Nora and says, “I could throw a Harley motor on the back of your wheelchair!” The women laugh.
“Wow. Yeah, I love those Harleys.”
October is National Guardianship Month, recognizing those who look after the emotional, social, financial and physical well-being of vulnerable adults. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry published this story in its Seeds of Change newsletter to highlight its guardians throughout Northeast Ohio in its guardianship services program. Republished with permission.
Jessica Starr is the director of communications with LMM. Photos by Michele Lenni.